University of Notre Dame

From Humors to Hysteria: Human and Political Bodies in European History, 1517-1918

Course Number: HIST 10456

Between the early rumblings of the Reformations and the last cannon shot of World War I, Europeans profoundly changed how they conceptualized bodies as experience and metaphors. During these four centuries, Europeans grounded the ways in which they interacted with each other and the world in bodily imaginings. On an individual level, the living, human body provided a means of accessing and understanding the material or spiritual world. On a collective scale, the physical body, its adornments, and its gestures provided markers that Europeans used to fracture society along axes of gender, sexuality, class, race, mental aptitude, and even sacrality. Drawing in part from their myriad imaginings of the human body, Europeans constructed metaphorical political bodies. The body politic assumed diverse forms spanning from divine right monarchs to revolutionary republics to modern nation states. Our course will lay bare the human body as culturally constructed, while fleshing out how Europeans’ evolving visions affected political imaginings.